LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — You make the call.
Player A or Player B?
Player A turned the ball over on nearly 16 percent of his possessions, according to the numbers at Ken Pomeroy’s analytics web site.
For Player B, the turnover rate was a calmer 14.2 percent.
Player A delivered a free throw rate of 31.9 percent, which means he shot nearly one free throw for every three field goal attempts. Very good.
Player B was more aggressive. His free throw rate was 49.1 percent — close to one foul shot for every two field goal attempts. Terrific.
Their two-point field goal shooting? Nearly identical — .529 for Player A, .530 for Player B.
Their offensive rebounding percentage WAS identical — 4.8 percent of the possible offensive rebounds for their teams.
Player A made 66.5 percent of his free throws. Player B was a deadlier 72.2 percent.
One guy was R.J. Barrett, the Duke freshman who will be taken in the first three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.
The other was Romeo Langford, who told Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com that he’ll make the official announcement he is leaving for the NBA next week.
I’ll make the call: Langford was Player B, the guy with better numbers in those categories, even though Barrett is a finalist for the Wooden Award and Langford was not voted the best freshman in the Big Ten.
The wise guys talk about Barrett as if he’s the Next Great Thing while howling that Langford has not made a jump shot since Santa Claus left Bloomington.
As if Indiana lost 16 games and 15 1/2 of them were directly attributed to Langford.
As if he was the only guy on Archie Miller’s roster who sometimes jogged back on defense and failed to solve the rebounding, turnover and shot selection issues that kept Indiana out of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.
There are reasons. Some are explainable. Barrett looked like the more dynamic, assertive player, convinced every shot was the right shot and going in.
No surprise Barrett averaged an astounding 18.5 shots per game, a half- dozen more than Langford. If you take six more shots, you should average six more points — and Barrett did, averaging 22.6 to Langford’s 16.5.
Barrett was better, but hardly the next Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, converting on 30.8 percent of his 237 three-point attempts. He was not a great shooter, but his persistence in launching more threes explains a reasonable chunk of his higher scoring average than Langford.
(One aside: Michael Jordan averaged 13.5 points as a college freshman; Darrell Griffith averaged 12.8 and shot 50.2 percent; Russell Westbrook averaged 3.4 points and shot 45.7 as a UCLA freshman and improved 12.7 and 46.5 as a sophomore. I could go on, but I hope you get the point.)
Some were unfair to Langford, who discovered that trying to outperform the hurricane of hype that surrounded his arrival at Indiana from New Albany High School was as challenging as solving Purdue’s defense.
There is no question that Langford struggled to shoot the ball effectively from distance, making only 27.2 percent of his 135 attempts.
His stroke needs work. So does his shot selection. He told Givony that he believed a significant part of the problem was a ligament injury in his right thumb that was repaired by an Indianapolis doctor Thursday. Langford played with a hand or wrist injury during his senior season at New Albany.
Showing as much skill and determination to go left as well as right? That would also help Langford’s NBA future.
Intensity? I’ll share this anecdote: At the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, an NBA scout who was a former Division I head coach stood at the baseline as Indiana prepared to play Ohio State. He watched Langford and his teammates get ready for the Buckeyes.
His first question: Does he always prepare like this?
The scout wanted to see more bounce, more energy, more noise.
That’s part of the narrative Langford must overcome.
This was a bigger factor: Duke won 32 of 38 games. Indiana won 19 of 35. Indiana underachieved, and for many people that translated to Romeo Langford underachieved.
Did Langford have bad games? You bet. Could Langford have delivered more big plays? No question.
But Langford experienced the flip side of being the next Eric Gordon, Jared Jeffries or Luke Recker at Indiana: Whatever you do, you should have done more.
Here is the rest of the story: Without Langford Indiana likely wins 14 or 15 games, not 19.
He wasn’t the only Indiana player whose three-point shot was crooked, the only guy who could have defended better, the only guy whose confidence disappeared during the IU losing streak.
Without Langford, those Juwan Morgan double teams in the post would have been triple teams.
Only six Division I freshmen averaged more than Langford’s 16.5 points per game and two competed in a Power Five conference.
One was Zion Williamson.
The other was Barrett.
Williamson and Barrett will be guaranteed lottery picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.
So will Langford — no matter how loudly the wise guys roar.
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